WHEN HALLOWEEN COMES TO CHURCH
My attention was directed this week to an internet post, complete with pictures, announcing a church that had made prominent space available in the church building for a Halloween-related display of crafts and other paraphernalia. The public is invited to stop by and see it and shop for items that might enhance their Halloween experience. It is predicted that at least 175 million Americans are expected to participate in Halloween festivities and spend 9 billion in the process. Halloween is second only to Christmas as a commercial holiday, and this church is apparently more than willing to do its part to help keep it that way.
This sort of thing once would have been shocking even to the non-Christian community. But it comes as no surprise to this untoward generation of church members that has learned to “put no difference between the holy and profane (Ezek. 22:26), and who should be but aren’t affected by God’s warning in Isaiah 5:20-21 that says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”
What people do outside the church building relative to Halloween is one thing, and it's something worth consideration; but it's not what we are concerned with in this article. What people do in the house of God relative to Halloween is another thing entirely, and it’s something that we want to address here as briefly, yet as clearly and forthrightly as we can.
I am very familiar with the church aforementioned that has opened its facilities to the enterprise and event mentioned. It was once a truly great church where,, over the course of many many years, hundreds of people were saved, baptized and happily enlisted and involved in the Lord’s work. It was a church that focused its attention and energy on the proclamation of the gospel, soul winning and the pursuit of personal, practical holiness by those in the church family. The church experienced steady growth in all these areas for many years. As should be expected, there was steady resistance during this time by a few from within – especially where any emphasis on and encouragement to personal, practical sanctification was concerned – but this was relatively minute and insignificant, and the church continued on doing its good work ”in the unity of the Spirit, and in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
During this happy period it became necessary for the church to buy land upon which to build facilities that would accommodate their congregation’s growth. Universal and unusual sacrifices were made within the church to accomplish this. No doubt, had anyone known beforehand the course that the church would one day take, there would have been no interest in obtaining land or building. Had anyone at the time known after the building was built how it would one day be used, there’s no doubt that many would have preferred to either sell it or burn it down. But they didn’t know.
The time came when this church experienced what has been the unhappy experience of many churches like it over the last several decades. It began to lose its focus on the fundamental things that God blesses in individual Christians and in a church. Things like the magnification of the ministry of the Word, the conscious and consistent encouragement of believers to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth” in their personal lives, and the reaching out with the gospel to souls for whom Christ died. All of these things began to slowly but surely be marginalized, until for all practical purposes they all but disappeared except for lip service given to them from time to time in sermons and hymns.
In the south, there is a hateful vine known as the kudzu vine. It doesn’t belong in North America any more than a worldly, carnal spirit belongs in a church. Kudzu was introduced from Japan in the latter part of the 19th. century as an ornamental plant. It was a bad decision. The kudzu vine grows and spreads across large areas of land making it unfruitful and impassable. Even the tallest trees are overtaken, bowed down and obscured by kudzu. Once established, it is almost impossible to eradicate. It takes from four years to ten years of repeated treatments with the strongest herbicides to kill it. The kudzu vine is an apt illustration of what carnality and worldliness does whenever and wherever it is allow to take hold in a church.
Carnality and worldliness is the kudzu vine that overtakes and obscures everything good in a church. Once introduced, it begins its steady and relentless “creep” and soon becomes unmanageable. It overpowers and leaves no trace that anything exists or ever existed in the place it has succeeded in dominating.
I think it is a strong indication that a church has almost, if not entirely, surrendered itself to the kudzu vine of carnality and worldliness when it turns its facilities over to that which is in every way the counter opposite of what a church should represent, promote and celebrate. There is something fundamentally wrong, something very telling and tragic about a church that allows this to happen. Here are just a few reasons why this is so:
A church shouldn't allow its identification with God to be distracted by any association by it with goblins, ghouls and ghosts
A church should jealously guard its association with the Savior and therefore have nothing to do with those things that are associated with Satan.
A church’s burden should have everything to do with the ministry of the Word, and nothing to do with the mimicking of witches, warlocks and wizards.
A church should celebrate the Master and have nothing to do with the celebration of monsters.
A church should be associated at all times with holiness, and at no time with the horror identified with Halloween.
A church’s business is to turn people towards heaven, not trivialize hell as Halloween does with devil costumes and plastic pitchforks.
A church shouldn’t divert any of its time, energy or resources to that associated with vampire-ish creatures that suck the blood out of people and at the same time claim to represent the Christ who sacrificed His blood so that people can be saved.
Philippians 4:8 says, “ Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Question: By what stretch of imagination can church members think it is consistent with this command to let the house of God be used for that which conjures up the exact opposite kind of thinking in people’s minds?
The New Testament tells us about two occasions upon which Jesus cleansed the temple. One was at the commencement of His earthly ministry and the other was towards the conclusion of it. When He cleansed it the first time, He accused those responsible for its defilement of making His “Father’s house a house of merchandise” (John 2:16). By the time that He cleansed it the second time, the situation had become far worse. At this second cleansing He said, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations a house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17).
The house of God had been known as “the house of prayer.” Then it became known as “a house of merchandise.” Then it was defiled and degraded to the place where the Son of God referred to it as “a den of thieves.” Can it get any worse than this? I think it has been demonstrated and is being demonstrated today in and by churches all across American that New Testament churches foolishly and treacherously can and do convert themselves and things associated with them into something far worse than a den of thieves.
Churches today sometimes show their willingness and ability to outdo the desecrations of Antiochus Epiphanes IV (216-164 BC) who slaughtered a sow on the altar in the temple Holy of Holies, and then replaced that altar with a statue of Jupiter that he commanded be worshipped. Too strong an assertion? I think not.
Antiochus Epiphanes, a type of the coming antichrist was a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire notorious for his hatred of God and everyone and everything associated with God. It shouldn’t surprise us that a man like this would do the things he did in and to the house of God. But we should be surprised and saddened beyond expression to see what those who claim to know, love and worship God are willing to do in, to and with God’s house.
Apostasy, simply defined, means to abandon and renounce the truth. To depart therefore, to any extent or at any level from any truth is by definition a form of apostasy. And this is so in terms of how we respond to the truth revealed in the Bible that instructs us in how we ought to think about and handle the house of God.
A further word about apostasy: There are certain drugs designated and known as “gateway” drugs because they are believed to lead to addiction to more dangerous and deadly drugs. Just so, there are forms of “gateway” apostasy that lead to more dangerous and deadly apostasy. Churches and Christians are “tripping out” apostasy-wise in terms of their departure from truth in the areas of music, worship and personal sanctification. This eventually leads them on to paths of greater apostasy. When this happens, extreme denial, delusions and defensiveness relative to their positions sets in and they go into attack mode against anyone and anything that threatens the position they have chosen to take.
Compromise with sin works the same way in the lives of churches that it does in the lives of individuals. It tempts them and then takes them father than they every intended to go as they deceive themselves into believing that they can stop and go back to where they were any time they want to.
Compromise with sin also keeps people where it has them far, far, longer than they ever thought they would stay. Situations that at first were uncomfortable for them become more and more comfortable. Things that once alarmed them become attractive.
Eventually churches that compromise with sin find out, as individuals do, that their compromise has cost, and is costing them, far more than they every imagined it would. In time, such churches, once great by biblical standards, become Sardis-like with a name, with a claim, that they live while in reality they are either, relative to what they once were or in reality, dead (Rev. 3:1)
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”